On October 12, Commander’s Palace announced that, for the first time in their 127-year history, a female executive chef will be at the helm of their legendary kitchen. Chef Tory McPhail, who is leaving New Orleans for Montana, has passed the crème brûlée torch to Megan “Meg” Bickford, who has spent the last 12 years with the Commander’s Family of Restaurants. While Meg is not the first woman chef in New Orleans (Madame Begue, Leah Chase, Susan Spicer, Kelly Fields, Sue Zemanick, Nina Compton and many others come to mind), it is still big news when a woman takes the helm at one of the most famous restaurants in America. Her name will now be added to an impressive lists of celebrity chefs who made their mark at Commander’s, including Paul Prudomme, Emeril Lagasse, Jamie Shannon and Tory McPhail.
Chef Meg started at Commander’s Palace in 2008 and served as the Executive Chef of Cafe Adelaide which closed in 2018. While at Café Adelaide, Meg was chosen as one of FSR Magazine’s “Rising Stars” and one of Louisiana Cookin’s “Chefs to Watch.”
Chef Tory McPhail said, “I have worked side by side with Chef Meg for over 12 years and she has been eager and hungry for a long time now. I couldn’t be prouder of her and I look forward to seeing her stamp on the legendary restaurant as it continues to evolve!”
According to a press release, Chef Meg’s father is from New Orleans and her mother comes from “down the Bayou” in Larose. As Commander’s Palace is the kitchen where Cajun and Creole crashed for the first time in the 1970's with Paul Prudhomme and Ella Brennan, the team is thrilled to have Chef Meg and her Creole and Cajun influences take the helm.
“Naming Chef Meg as our Executive Chef is a proud moment for us,” said Commander’s Co-Proprietors Ti Martin and Lally Brennan. “Meg has always been a spitfire in the kitchen, a ball of energy with eyes darting about, seeing and learning everything. She is small but mighty and has the complete respect of our entire kitchen and restaurant. There is a sparkle in her eye and magic in those hands.”
A few of Chef Meg’s new menu additions include Miso & Sugarcane Shrimp Coated Redfish with spicy chilis, lemongrass, shaved Mirliton, ripped mint and lime, Dirty Duck Confit served with a sweet citrus and sour orange pepper jelly over Louisiana heirloom pumpkin au gratin, roasted apple salad, white bean crisp and “dirty” andouille duck jus, and Jumbo Lump Crab Stuffed Crab, featuring a Pontchartrain blue crab shell overstuffed with chilled Louisiana jumbo lump, crisp fennel, mirlition, Louisiana citrus & tarragon infused olive oil, Cajun caviar-crab fat aioli and hand pounded filé gremolata.
So what can we expect moving forward? Chef Meg said, “I want to dive deeper into all the influences on our cuisine. Creole cuisine has always and should always evolve, and our team gets excited about different flavors and ingredients that are shaping cuisine all over Louisiana right now. We are not about standing still. I am eager to keep moving it forward with the Commander’s team.”
Photo credit: Chris Granger